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Teacher workload – How to free up more time for teaching

January 4, 2021, 16:31 GMT+1
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  • Graham Cooper offers four tips for helping teachers spend less time in admin and more time with children...
Teacher workload – How to free up more time for teaching

Teaching has been officially recognised by the Health and Safety Executive as high on the list of the most stressful jobs.

But, despite this, the number of teachers who say they would leave the profession if they could find an alternative, suitably paid job appears to be falling – and that’s against the backdrop of Covid-19.

This is mostly down to the precious time teachers spend with the children they support – it’s why most teachers enter the profession and also what makes the job so rewarding.

But with so many responsibilities eating up teachers’ time, what can senior leaders do to free up more time for teaching?

Lesson planning, marking, pupil assessment and administration are important tasks so the aim is not to eliminate them completely. Rather to make a few adjustments so that they can be managed in a more effective and less time heavy way.

Take a look at these four steps to help you free up more child time for teachers in your school.

1 | Find out which tasks are swallowing up teachers’ time

Ask your staff to write down six administrative tasks they do every day and rank these tasks from high to low in terms of the time and effort they take to complete. Then ask your teachers to rank the six tasks according to their impact on teaching and learning.

You can get additional insight from this exercise by encouraging teachers to share their thoughts on what the consequences might be if they were to stop doing each of the tasks.

This is a great way to highlight the key priorities and move the tasks that tend to eat up time but have less of a positive impact on pupils’ achievement further down the list.

2 | Put existing processes under the spotlight

Cast a critical eye over the way your school currently does things and ask the question why? If the answer is ‘because we have always done it like that’ or ‘because that’s how the SLT wants it,’ it may be time for a change.

So, one thing you could do is invite your teachers to a workshop and ask them to bring details of the six tasks they have identified as most laborious with them. This will help to spark discussion about which tasks you should keep doing, which could be adjusted to cut administration and which you should abandon all together because they simply don’t benefit pupils.

3 | Look at ways to work smarter not harder

Look at the different ways of helping teachers to work more efficiently and effectively to support pupils’ learning progress across your school. For example, some pupil trackers and MIS make it easier for teachers to assess children against key objectives during lessons. This helps to avoid the double-handling of information, such as ticking success criteria in exercise books and then having to record details of pupils’ progress again electronically.

You could even give teachers the option to link photos and videos to statements as evidence of pupil attainment while in lessons to cut time spent filling this information in after school.

Giving pupils visual feedback on their progress towards learning targets can be quicker and more engaging too, so take a closer look at your systems to see whether you could use progress charts or graphs to replace more time consuming reports.

4 | Monitor the impact of change on workloads

Plan a regular review at least once a year and encourage your staff to continue bringing their own specific workload issues directly to you. You can take the opportunity to share details of the areas where workload savings have been achieved too. If staff can see that sharing lesson resources has freed up three hours of time two teachers previously spent planning, they will be encouraged to embrace other changes you’re making across the school.

Graham Cooper is a former school leader and now chief marketing officer at Juniper Education.


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